January 2009 Update Bulletin

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 What is Oracle?  

Magic is a game made up of over 10,000 interchangeable pieces—the cards. Over the years, we've felt the need to update the wordings of older cards, whether because we've introduced a new keyword, or a card was printed with a mistake, or we have a clearer wording for what a card does, etc. Rather than sneak into your room at night and change your cards with a magic marker, we keep a database of the "modern wordings" (what the cards would say if we printed them today) of every tournament-legal card ever printed. These wordings are considered the official wordings of the cards, and accurately reflect their functions.

You can access a card's Oracle wording by looking it up in Gatherer.

The letter C!onflux previews are in full swing, and the Prerelease is just days away, which means it's time for me to pop my head in and tell you all about the minor wording updates happening to Arabian Nights cards. I always said that my greatest strength was my ... um ... y'know ... timing. This article will detail all the changes that are being implemented in the Oracle card database and the Comprehensive Rules.

These updates happen only when a new set is released, so corrections or improvements that have come to our attention over the past few months are being implemented now. In addition, some rules changes are necessary to make the new cards work.

Changes to the Oracle card database will go into effect on Friday, January 30.

Changes to the Comprehensive Rules will take effect shortly thereafter, though any changes that are necessary for Conflux cards to work will be in effect during the Prerelease. Bear in mind, however, that the new version of the Comp. Rules has not yet been finalized, so the listed amendments are subject to change.

There's nothing particularly earth-shattering happening this time, unless you're a big, big fan of Eye for an Eye or Sorrow's Path. Problem children like Gilded Drake and Unstable Shapeshifter are getting tweaks, but this is mostly standard maintenance stuff.

 What are the Comprehensive Rules?  

Magic is complicated. No, really. When you have over 10,000 interchangeable game pieces, you get some freaky interactions. The Comprehensive Rules cover everything the game has ever come up with, from basic game play structure, to every keyword ever, to entire pages dedicated to single bizarre cards (hello, Mindslaver!) The Comprehensive Rules are, well, comprehensive ... but they're also obtuse, unfriendly, and looooong. They're not intended to be a player resource—they're a judge resource, a rules guru resource, and a place to store definitive answers. In fact, I honestly recommend never reading them. For a much friendlier rulebook that is intended to be a player resource, check out the Rules Page and download the Basic Rulebook (2MB PDF), now with an appendix on planeswalker rules. It doesn't have sections about phasing or subgames ... but you'll never miss them.

A good portion of this update is spent handling "übertemplating" issues. When we decide what wording a particular card should have for its specific ability, that's templating. When we decide on a standard wording for a class of abilities that appear across a broad swath of cards, that's übertemplating. It promotes consistency, eliminates ambiguity, and (by standardizing Oracle) helps our efforts to template new cards. All of these changes are nonfunctional; because there are a number of them, they're called out in their own link below.

Many suggestions for changes to Oracle or the Comp Rules came from me, Magic Editor Del Laugel, and the members of the Rules Guru mailing list. But, as always, a lot of them came from ... you. As always, there were a number of useful notes from Alexander Deyke, and plenty of suggestions were mined from posts made on the last update's message boards and the Rules Issues forums. We monitor those forums, so feel free to post any suggestions or comments there.

Functional Oracle Changes
Übertemplating Oracle Changes
Other Nonfunctional Oracle Changes
Comprehensive Rules Changes

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